Pencil Preferences

Craftsmen discuss the pencils they like and where they carry them. November 11, 2005

As cabinet and trim installers, what kind of pencils do you use??

Forum Responses
(Cabinet and Millwork Installation Forum)
From contributor A:
I use Dixon Ticonderoga 1388 3-H Hard.

From contributor B:
I use anything my vendors give me that is free.

From contributor C:
I agree with contributor A. As a related matter, I keep my #3 in a neat little rig sold at Home Depot. Four bucks buys a self retracting conical rubber cup that you just shove the pencil into. The cup is tethered by a string that pulls itself into a matchbook size retractor that clips to any part of your shirt. It looks kind of goofy, but I can grab, mark, and just let go of the pencil, in two seconds. After a day of running trim, the time saved adds up.

From contributor D:
I've grown to prefer the #4 very hard lead. It is easier to make a very light mark, and easier to sharpen. Part of a used 220 stick-it disk on my tape is good for quick sharpening touch ups. I read some interesting threads from another forum on where folks keep their pencils. Anyone care to share that information?

From contributor E:
I like to make really fine marks so I use the Papermate Sharpwriter disposable mechanical pencil. I buy them in boxes of twelve. I like never having to sharpen my pencil. They take some getting used to as they donít require as much pressure to make a mark and if you press too hard the lead breaks. I use them in the shop or onsite. I am left handed and I store my pencil in my left rear pants pocket on the left side of my wallet. They donít break as easy as wood ones when you sit on them.

From contributor F:
I use a #3 pencil. I keep it behind my ear. I tend to forget it's there. I even accidentally had my driver's license picture taken with it!

From contributor G:
I had some #9's, almost never needed sharpening. But if you lay them down, they disappear.

From contributor H:
I have also seen other threads on pencil storage. If I recall it was mentioned that most plumbers have a built in pencil location, and if stored there, no one will ever knowingly borrow or steal.

From contributor A:
To contributor G: What's the difference between a #9 pencil and a scratch awl?

From contributor J:
I used to get those little metal clips and slide them onto #3 or #4 pencils and clip them to my pocket. It was a quick one-handed operation, in or out. I haven't been able to find the clips for 3-4 years now. I now use a three place leather pencil holster on my belt, and find it very convenient - better than the shirt pocket clip. Being on the hip, it gives new meaning to the term "quick draw." The harder pencils sharpen better, last longer, and the #4 will cut thin Pine in a pinch.

From contributor A:
I am right handed and keep my #3 behind my left ear point in first.

From contributor K:
I buy whatever the cheapest American made bulk pack is at Costco or Samís Club. American pencils are a lot better than Chinese pencils. #2 pencils work just fine for me and my guys. I like having big packs around so I can start the day with a fresh pencil, then when the packs gone Iíve got a box of half used pencils in the truck. I always wear a baseball cap on the job, so I carry my pencil tucked under my cap in front of my ear. It doesnít interfere with my safety glasses and is either there or in my mouth. I always carry a big soft pink eraser in the drill pocket of my bags, as well. It is very handy to have around for erasing any layout lines on walls, and makes for clean work.

From contributor L:
I use #2 also. I keep an electric pencil sharpener next to my battery charger. I store it behind the ear or between teeth.

From contributor M:
It depends on what I'm doing. If the goal is precision marking, you won't do any better than what you get from a drafting instrument - equal, maybe, but not better. For fine work, I use a Staedtler 980 with a 2.0 mm HB lead. The built in sharpener is acceptable for general work, and the included stand alone sharpener (half the size of a pack of gum) makes needle sharp points for fine work. The quality of the stand alone sharpeners varies.
For marking large built-in cabinets and shelving systems, I use a standard square carpenter's pencil, sharpened with a utility knife.

From contributor N:
A scratch awl just adds more sanding and you better hope you donít mis-mark something. It might be ok for a hobby, but for production work, you need a reliable pencil, such as the Pentel P207 sold at Office Max for $7 for a two pack. Itís the blue mechanical 0.7mm pencil that is absolutely excellent for cabinet work. To top it off, make the $5 investment at your local Rockler store for the cabinet makers tape and pencil holder. It hooks right on your belt so no need to worry about your pockets falling apart on all your jeans.

From contributor O:
The Mirado Black warrior #2 1/2 is a decent all around pencil if you're not scared of spending a quarter.

From contributor P:
9mm mechanicals work awesome the lead doesn't break, and you always have the same width line. Plus you don't need a sharpener.